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Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - AESSEAL New York Stadium

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Sunderland have hit a mini-blip, but it’s not season-defining and it’s certainly not a crisis

Two iffy results have followed two excellent victories, but this isn’t unusual.

Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

At the moment, supporting Sunderland puts me in mind of the lyrics from the classic James song, ‘Sit Down’.

Swing from high to deep, extremes of sweet and sour’.

Victories, such as the win over QPR, have been lauded and the performances of individual players hailed for their brilliance. However, when we concede a goal, perform poorly or God forbid, lose a game, it’s the opposite.

Sunderland v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Perhaps it’s simply a byproduct of the raised standards and expectations that surround the club nowadays and a sense that this could be the time to make a move towards top flight football.

Given that the playoffs are within reach and there are several sides battling for that prized top six berth, every point dropped is amplified but the reality is far more nuanced. The Championship might be considered ‘weak’ by some, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got it completely figured out.

Tuesday night’s visit to Rotherham, a game in which we fell behind to two sloppily-conceded goals and didn’t really start playing until the second half began, didn’t teach us anything new, and frankly, I wasn’t shocked by the loss.

We do struggle against the more physical sides in the league (just as we did in League One) and Dan Neil’s awareness and composure under pressure remains a glaring but fixable weakness in his armoury.

In addition, Patrick Roberts is borderline undroppable and the decision from Tony Mowbray to rotate the squad didn’t pay dividends, which the head coach duly acknowledged afterwards.

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - AESSEAL New York Stadium Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Other than that? There was little else to dwell on.

It was a classic stumble, but still frustrating, and it was encouraging to see Joe Gelhardt open his Sunderland account. The on-loan Leeds striker has cut an isolated figure at times, but hopefully his goal could signal the start of a prolific run as he tries to fill the void left by Ross Stewart.

Yes, some dubious officiating deprived us of what would’ve been a scarcely-deserved point, but too many of our players had an off-night in Yorkshire and Rotherham duly cashed in.

Coming on the back of Saturday’s draw against Bristol City, during which we led until the dying embers, the loss probably felt more pronounced and the upshot is that we’ve taken one point from two winnable fixtures, but some perspective is needed.

The Championship in its current guise is a strange and unpredictable division and the fact is that if you’re not on your game, you’re liable to be sucker-punched by your opponent, regardless of where they might be in the table.

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

This week, it’s been our turn to take the hit, but there’s no doubt that the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Norwich (whose inconsistency this season has already cost them a manager) and Blackburn will experience similar situations between now and the end of the season.

After four years out of the second tier, the entire dynamic has shifted, and although the pressure isn’t as great this season, the way in which we’ve taken to the league has been welcome and very encouraging.

A loss, a draw and two victories from our last four games is not particularly eye-catching form- either negatively or positively, and Mowbray will understand that better than anyone.

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - AESSEAL New York Stadium Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

In addition, it’s unlikely that there’ll be any major recriminations from the past two fixtures, because that’s simply not the way we operate now.

Quiet words will be exchanged, the players will refocus and hopefully won’t let the past two games affect them going forward. Even if the fans are restless, blocking out external noise is something that Sunderland do very well nowadays, and that’s a major positive.

The past seven days might not have gone as we would’ve hoped, but with thirty nine points left to play for, there’s an excellent chance that we could gatecrash the top six and mount a challenge for what would be a frankly astonishing second successive promotion.

The test of any team’s credentials often comes when you have a chance to respond to a poor result.

For us, that opportunity is this Saturday against Coventry, another playoff rival. Having been held to a draw against the Sky Blues on opening day, it's a great chance to clock up another win before that visit of Stoke the following week.


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